Erasure’s Violet Flame

18 09 2014

Erasure - Violet Flame (Photo Shoot)K, synthpop whores! It’s Erasure time again. For a lot of people, the release of a new album by a veteran band means, ‘Oh, fuck! All three remaining members of the Beatles are getting back together again to record…a re-recording of a 1994 compilation of…their number-one hits from, um, the 1960s, which is the only decade they made music!’ So, basically, nothing new.

Erasure are not like that. They consistently release a new album once every two to three years, often with delicious re-releases interspersed with new, original material, and re-inventing their style of synthpop with the latest producers. Most bands that originated in the ’80s can’t boast that, even if some rapper is using a synthesiser riff from their main hit in their latest song.

Erasure’s new album is a masterwork of electronic dance pop. And I say this as a hardcore fan who has criticised the band in the past for producing work which could be judged as marginal because it relied too much on trends in acoustic folk rock (which I deplore). This is entirely different:

My least-favourite album (Loveboat) was highly synthesised, well-written, well-thought-out, and expertly executed. So I am speaking in relative terms.

The band’s two previous albums, Light At The End Of The World and Tomorrow’s World (minus the Christmas album released last year) were very good and had very coherent, well-written dance anthems, but if we are talking about coherent, well-written dance anthems, The Violet Flame blows them out of the water. It is absolutely majestic in its scope. The lead singer, Andy Bell, boasts an incredibly fluid and nimble voice, synthesiser wizard Vince Clarke creates the most beautifully subtle, lush synthesiser arrangements, Andy Bell Erasureand producer Richard X polishes it off with his own HI-NRG take. The result is the perfect melodic dance-pop album.

Let’s talk about songs. ‘Under The Waves’ immediately stands out as an infectious bubblegum tune. It is the catchiest song I have heard in years. ‘Oh-oooh-oh-oooh-oh’, goes the chorus, on and on, against a thick, up-and-down italo-disco bassline. Also notable is the tune ‘Sacred’, which celebrates the extent to which love will realise itself. The most infectious and important of these transcendent dance songs, though, is the sinister and roiling ‘Paradise’. It is all about throwing away everything anybody thought about you and following your passion. It is about being true to yourself. And it’s a dance anthem! To me, this is perfection.

The Violet Flame is perhaps the best dance album I have ever heard. I hate most club mixes—they sound boring and monotonous to me. This album offers dance music that satisfies several important criteria: lyricism, melody, danceability, content. It is lyrical, melodic, danceable, and offers remotely intelligible insight into modern-day relationships and social issues. Erasure have outdone themselves with this album.

 

 

 

 





Review of the Vampire Film ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’

14 09 2014

It is Only Lovers Left Alive - Posterone of the most striking films I have ever seen. Vampires Eve and Adam re-unite after a few decades, and the younger sister, Ava, tries to shatter their dreams by acting like a no-good Angelena. The premise is bizarre, yet fascinating.

Eve and Adam text about Adam’s depression, and she, the ever-sprightly one, decides to travel from her base in Tangier to his place in Detroit, where she attempts to soothe him. Everything is weird—she is texting her lover on an iPhone via her Moroccan boudoir, which is decorated in embroidered fabrics and is probably suffused with various exotic scents. Gold, blue, and white are the main colours. He is consumed in a mess of guitars and violins in a decaying Detroit mansion.

Eve and Adam are humane vampires who acquire blood by bribing hospital staff and local friends to quench their thirst. They have no desire to feed on humans unless necessary. Much like modern-day human vegans refuse to consume animal products unless necessary. Until Eve’s younger sister, Ava, arrives and starts acting like a total douche-bag. "only lovers left alive"She drinks Adam’s musical assistant to death, and Eve and Adam have to dispose of his corpse in a vat of acid somewhere in an abandoned building in Detroit.

After kicking Ava out on her own, Eve and Adam decide to return to Eve’s favourite place—Tangier. Unfortunately, Tangier is infected with contaminated blood. Even Eve’s reliable source of blood—Marlowe—lies dying of contaminated blood. Eve delicately lays her hand on the head of his human care-taker. It is actually a quite moving scene.

The last scene is amazing. Since Marlowe and his special source of blood are gone, Eve and Adam are forced to walk the streets ofOnly Lovers Left Alive - Last Scene Tangier, seeking a source of blood. They are starving. Eve in particular catches the scent of blood. It is a couple making out. She convinces Adam to turn them. He acquiesces. The look in their glassy eyes is disturbing.

Only Lovers Left Alive is amazing not only because it is so cryptic and peaceful, but also because it forces the viewer to re-imagine the vampire as a creature with human emotions. After all, humans are just cattle in the eyes of the vampire.

 





Men Are from Earth, Women Are from Earth

28 03 2014

John Gray Women Venus Men MarsRemember the whole ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ craze that swept the ’90s? Some people still believe in it. I consider it the bilgewater of popular myth. I view it as part of a larger machine in which right-wing conspiracy theorists enshrine old-fashioned ideas about gender difference through pop-culture vehicles like John Gray and Leonard Sax. Even the paranormal radio programme CoasttoCoastAM invites John Gray as a regular guest, but not people who disagree with him.

The notion that male and female brains are fundamentally different has been challenged by neuroscientist Gina Rippon, of Aston University in Birmingham, England. Rippon does not claim that male and female brains are the same—she claims that they are different because of environmental influences. In other words, she suggests, everything children learn, and everything they absorb from their youngest years, informs their concepts of gender. Isn’t that a pioneering concept? Cordelia Fine echoes the same ideas in her acclaimed book Delusions of GenderHowever, there are armchair theorists in every family who want to slap down anybody who rocks the uncomfortably comfortable boat.

At the core of Rippon’s argument is the concept of brain plasticity. She points out studies which show that the brains of London taxi-cab drivers changed after they acquired knowledge of the streets and landmarks of London. After an extended period of time, the cab drivers had created new neural networks to meet the demands of the environment. The point is that the brain is not just a ready-made piece of meat, but a tool to meet the needs of the user. Just as a Gina Rippon Brain Male Female Gender Sex Differencetaxi-cab driver moulds her brain to fit the streets of London, a young boy moulds his brain to suit the needs of an exacting stepfather. That stepfather might try to shut down dolls in a boy, or he might try to shut down cars in a girl.

It is important to note that criticisms of the gender binary do not preclude the fact of transgender identity. Just as any cisgender person identifies with one or another gender, so does a transgender person. Gender is a spectrum, and transgender people can claim any space a cisgender person does along this spectrum (or wagon-wheel/Venn diagram, as I like to think of it).

The point is that it is wrong to assign roles on the basis of gender identity. I understand that in sports we assign roles to traditionally feminine or masculine physiques–like football–but that is an exception. And besides, even then, don’t ‘women’ have a better sense of balance and a better track record of completing long-distance treks? So why do we judge ‘male’ abilities better than ‘female’ ones? All of that aside, we need to form a better standard for treating people on the basis of their gender. Because the fake idea of equality, that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus–without allowing women what men have–constitutes an insult to everybody’s intelligence.





8 Reasons Why Transphobia Makes No Sense

22 11 2013

Transgender Man Evon YoungTransgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) was 20 November, but I didn’t post this blog entry in time. Ironically, it has allowed me to cull from the Web information that was only available on the day itself. It has allowed me to calculate the shocking cost in human terms of hatred toward transgender people.

**Trigger warning for graphic description of violent crime**

It has allowed me to acknowledge the horrifying fact that Evon Young, a 22 year-old rapper from Milwaukee, was suffocated, beaten, and shot before being dismembered and set ablaze.

Transphobia is abhorrent in all its forms, but it takes on a new shape when it involves class and race. Many victims of transphobia are poor, black, and utterly lacking in social or financial resources. That’s enough Carmen Carrerato think about in itself.

Compassion is key to ending transphobia—there is nothing more needed than an understanding soul—but I also find it helpful to challenge transphobes with reason (of which compassion is the keystone). Thus, I offer eight reasons why transphobia makes no sense. If this doesn’t sway you, I don’t know what will.

1. Transgender people challenge gender stereotypes

This is a classic argument used against transgender people by the religious right-wing. Yes, they do challenge gender stereotypes. So, what? What is wrong with a person offending your sense of the way males or females should appear or behave? You don’t have the right to restrict another person’s rights just because of your ideas about gender.

2. Transgender people reinforce gender stereotypes

This is the reverse of the supposedly ‘conservative’ stance. It states that transgender people are sexist because they reify ideas about gender. For example, a transgender man might cut his hair short and wear pants. How is this any different from anything a cisgender man might do? If you can blame the transgender man for Chaz Bono Cherstereotyping, you also have to blame the cisgender man for stereotyping. There is no difference. This attitude suggests that cisgender men can get away with being masculine, while transgender men can’t. Vice-versa for transgender women and cisgender women. If a cisgender woman can get away with growing long hair without being seen as sexist, why can’t a transgender woman? As long as cisgender people maintain gender stereotypes, they are in no place to judge transgender people for doing the same. We all live in the same milieu of gender-crap.

3. It’s unnatural

Of course this is bullshit. As I stated in 8 Reasons Why Homophobia Makes No Sense, just because something is natural does not make it right, and just because something is unnatural does not make it wrong. Clearly cutting hair is unnatural, but how many people create an uproar over that? Likewise, not Amanda Simpsoncutting your hair is natural, and few people create an uproar over that. So even if being transgender were unnatural, the appeal to nature argument is a fallacy. A thing doesn’t have to be natural in order to be valid.

4. Transgender people reduce people to their genitals

As opposed to cisgender people?? The argument is that transgender people reduce people to their genitals because they fixate on gender reassignment surgery. First, not all transgender people seek gender reassignment surgery—some transgender men can give birth, and some transgender women don’t want penectomies; second, so what if they did? There’s nothing wrong with wanting different genitals. It isn’t a fucking gender statement; it’s them realising themselves. In addition, some cisgender women undergo hysterectomies and mastectomies, and there are post-menopausal women, but we don’t say they are no longer women. Why should we say the same about transgender women? Why should cisgender women care so much about their anatomy, but not transgender women?

5. Genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation is an horrific crime against humanity in which all manner of mutilations are Trans Mancommitted against women and girls for the sake of the virginity, marriageability, social acceptance, and suppression of desire among women and girls, often with dire physical consequences. It is an abhorrent act that no cultural relativist can justify. It has nothing whatsoever to do with gender reassignment surgery. People who seek gender reassignment surgery do so voluntarily—and often at great cost—to fulfil their needs. It is absolutely wrong to equate FGM to transgender people seeking gender reassignment surgery.

6. Transgender women are dicks in disguise

There is this weird idea among some members of what is called the radical-feminist movement that transgender women are really men disguising as women to infiltrate the sacred sisterhood and violate them. Ugh. First of all, if you believe in gender ambiguity, how does somebody who’s fighting for their right to be recognised as a woman threaten you? Second, if a transgender woman has undergone sexual reassignment surgery, how can she do anything to you that any other woman hasn’t?

7. They’re pathologically confused.

No, they are not pathologically confused. You are. They know who they are, even if you don’t. In case anybody has any doubts, the American Psychological Association has not only validated transgenderTransgender Child identities as healthy, but has also provided a very helpful booklet of information for those who still don’t understand why transgender identity is good and healthy.

8. What about children and families?

I understand your apprehension. It seems like transgender people can’t or shouldn’t create families. The fact is, some of them do, and all of them have come from one. There are transgender men who bear and nurse children. Why should they be treated differently from other men? Because of their anatomy? Remember the woman who has had a hysterectomy. I understand that this seems silly and abstract, but think about it.

Those are among the many reasons why transphobia makes no sense. After reading about Evon Young’s horrific murder, I was paralysed with horror, but I figured that providing these points might help educate people about the real-life consequences of transphobia. It is not rational, good, or healthy to be cruel. Transgender people need our support, and wherever you meet a transgender person in need, give them the coat off your back.





Drag Queens out of Drag, in Drag!

7 05 2013

I’m happy, so I’m going to use Dragulator.

My hopes and dreams came true when Jinkx Monsoon won the crown on Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly why she resonates with me. Part of it is her slightly sloppy, adorably camp good humour, but it is also her rich understanding and appreciation of vintage drag and drag history–something to which more of us need to be exposed. I even liked the fact that her crown was slightly crooked when RuPaul placed it on her head. When I look at the “sleeper from Seattle”, I see Mae West after a rough night in bed. Everything about America’s first narcoleptic Jewish drag superstar–from her unfinished lady-of-the-night look to her comedic buffoonery–screams Pacific Northwest “realness”. To me that means liberal, relaxed, and willing to be yourself while letting others do the same.

Like Jinkx, I do believe we should take drag less seriously. That is, after all, why RuPaul herself created the Web site Dragulator, where you can take pictures of people’s faces and transform them into their drag alter ego. Since Season 5 of Drag Race is over, I thought I would try to deconstruct the very scrupulously crafted drag persona of each of the season’s royal triumvirate–Roxxxy Andrews, Alaska Thunderfuck, and Jinkx Monsoon–by taking photographs of them out of drag and then dragulating them! And how could I leave out the queen-bitch of them all, RuPaul? I bet she never imagined that scenario when she created Dragulator.

And with that let us commence with the dragulation!

1) Roxxxy Andrews

Roxxxy Fuck

Darling, you don’t look so bad-ass here! Your sartorial presentation is refined and polished, and you have much to teach about sewing and costume construction–but why are you trying to sneak away with Jinkx’s crown?

2) Alaska Thunderfuck

Alaska Thunderfuck Dragulator - Body

Hark! It is Alaska without a wig. You’ve turned trash into 1980s prom queen couture, darling! I can’t wait to see you dance to ‘You Spin Me Round’. How does it feel to be a cool high-school girl from the ’80s, garbage-hooker??

3) Jinkx Monsoon

Jinkx Monsoon Dragulator - Body

Oh, god. Jinkx, did somebody ask you to do blackface? Because that’s one area I don’t think you’ll master. The face doesn’t match the–oh, wait. That’s right. I matched your face with a black queen’s body on Dragulator. Somehow, though, I think you’ll pull through and render a masterpiece out of the random scraps and pieces.

4) RuPaul

RuPaul Dragulator - Body

Whoooaaagh, shit! Tell me one thing–how do you stick that wig on your head? Do you use Elmer’s Glue (which is apparently cruelty-free)? Do you use superglue? Because that would be very painful to tear off. I just want to know how you create that seamless melding between forehead and hair. It is an important part of drag.

Oh, wait. I forgot an important part of this post. Singer and songwriter Aubrey O’Day said she didn’t like Jinkx Monsoon. Well, how would this Playboy model like it if I took a picture of her without makeup and transformed her into drag?

Aubrey O'Day Dragulator - Body JPG

What’s wrong, Aubrey? Cat’s got your–oh, wait. Half of your head is gone. I guess it’s like when Uma Thurman sliced off Lucy Liu’s skull in Kill Bill, Vol. I. Well, some people deserve a lobotomy.

With that, I want to say that I appreciate the contribution of all three queens to drag history: Roxxxy’s professional pageantry, Alaska’s unabashed sordidness, and Jinkx’s subversive commentary on gender. All of these things open up our eyes. But, still, I want to know how RuPaul  puts her wig on. How? I wonder….





A Gay Man Celebrates International Women’s Day (and a Stupid Jerk Shits His Opinion)

9 03 2013

March is Women’s History Month. I want to focus on achievements, but sadly my attention is drawn to shitty American jock humour–which is everywhere. Did you notice how annoyingly stupid the introduction to the 2013 Academy Awards ceremony was? A song about boobs by cut-rate humourist Seth MacFarlane and his tuxedoed entourage?? Oh my goodness, the ice-cold glare launched by Charlize Theron could slice through diamond.

Charlize Theron Booby Song Oscars 2013

Well, I saw a refreshingly cool comment by psychic and medium Chip Coffey, who, in my opinion, reverberates with respectability, class, and integrity:

Chip Coffey International Women's Day Facebook





Drag Queen Jinkx Monsoon Talks Gender and Makeup Tips

14 02 2013

The fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race has commenced, and we are all dying to know which queens will make the cut to the much-relished triumvirate, let alone who will win the crown. I’ve actually had a hard time identifying the queen I think will win (in the past I’ve accurately predicted Raja and Sharon Needles), but I am quite enamoured with Seattle’s own Jinkx Monsoon. She’s just so bananas and full of character! And purpose.

I’m going to tell you why I think Jinkx is such a fascinating creature (and might deserve to win the crown), but first I want you to watch this video of her sharing her makeup tips as well as her ideas about gender, drag, and performance art:

The first thing that caught my attention were her thoughts on hyperfemininity in Hollywood films: “There are a lot of really hyperfeminine villains in American culture. I think we think that women can only be evil if they use their seduction to…gain status over their enemies.” I don’t think Jinkx is saying, “Hey, this is what women should be!” I think she is parodying traditional expectations of womanhood by making them look absurd and turning them on their heads by glorifying the traditionally scorned woman. Often, in drag, the “evil woman” is actually the misunderstood woman with a rich history that Jinkx Monsoon Seattle Drag Queen RuPaul's Drag Racedeserves exploration before fielding judgement.

I also appreciated Jinkx’s comments about drag as a performance art: “Beyond just the fact that you have to paint your face and change your body and step into this whole new skin…. It’s an art-form because it’s not just a form of self-expression, but it’s a forum for kind of discussing topics and bringing things to the foreground that you want people to start talking about. I think really good drag makes you think about something, just like any–any good spectacle or theatre piece or anything–they kind of make you take a look at something you may have not noticed yet.” This is precisely why drag is not just gender illusion–it is gender commentary. But it’s still fun to dress up, of course.

The most profound thing Jinkx says in her interview is about gender identity. “The best drag queens are commenting on gender Jinkx Monsoon Seattle Drag Queen RuPaul's Drag Race IIor sexuality. And when you’re playing a character, you can say things that you wouldn’t normally say as yourself. Like, I can call out all kinds of bullshit as Jinkx that I would never really talk about as myself.” In other words, men become drag queens to comment on the stupid ideas of sex roles produced largely in the middle twentieth century. But this aesthetic is also pretty, and they do celebrate that. It’s OK to be feminine too. Both are good.

Drag queens like Jinkx Monsoon are fascinating because they know what they are doing. They are sophisticated and ethereal about their craft, but they also know how to turn it out on-stage. Jinkx knows that she is mocking traditionally feminine roles while also celebrating the beauty of femininity–which is worthy. This is a hard line to walk, but I think she aces it.

Besides. My snitty-tits said so.





Julie Gentron and the Lady League (Vol. 1, Ep. 9): The Plouvre

5 02 2013

Last time on Julie Gentron and the Lady League, the ladies joined fists in a brilliant display of lady-light over the futuristic landscape of London in preparation to intercept their dreaded foe, Plastica, at her next target of assimilation, the Louvre museum in Paris.

Julie Gentron Plastica Black Lame V“The Venus de Milo. Right. Put some arms on her. I won’t have my goddesses maimed. And be sure to get my features right when you sculpt her face into my likeness.” Plastica said these words to somebody behind her as she slithered her way into the Louvre like a cobra, led by Dr. Electro-hag and Simpson Oswald, whom she had restrained with a pair of chains which served as leashes. “Mush, mush!” She whipped the chains, and her bitches pulled forth their queen on hands and knees until she gave a yank, signalling them  to stop. She was dressed in a drapey, 1940s-style, shoulder-padded black lamé dress cut off at mid-thigh, while her hounds donned tasteful, high-end S&M attire imported from Berlin. Three plasticons–one man and two women–attended from behind, dressed in identical S&M outfits, with the exception that the male plasticon’s outfit was fitted for his body. One of the women placed an incense-burner on Oswald’s head. He grimaced resentfully at the indignity.

“Why, I never noticed it before,” Plastica said, scanning the room thoughtfully with her darkly outlined green eyes, “but this newly redecorated Louvre reminds me of my childhood Christmases. All the glitter, tinsel, and shiny glass ornaments painted green, pink, and gold. My favourite were always the indented teardrop-shaped ones. They always scattered the light to create this garish display that captivated the eye and kept it rapt with fascination, like souls enslaved.” She said this as she fondled the ornate gilt frame of a fifteenth-century Flemish painting by Albrecht Dürer with a tidily gloved finger. The face had been re-painted in the likeness of the plastic witch, and many more were undergoing a similar transformation at the hands of her craftsmen, who had all been assimilated. (Their pitter-pattering could be heard in the halls without.) Indeed, the great museum chamber was suffused with a lurid pink-green glow, like a string of Christmas tree lights, or a Manchester fashion show.

Julie Gentron - Plastica Dominatrix S&M Oswald Electro-Hag“You! Sergeant Sodomite, what’s her name?” Plastica barked at Oswald, referring to one of the stationary supermodel servants.

“I don’t fucking know!” he snapped, grinding his teeth. She ignored his invective and returned her attention to her servant.

“You, the Eastern European beanpole by the potted palm in the shape of my face. Whatever your name is. Titty. Bring me some more pline!”

“My name is not Titty. It is Tina,” said the plasticon in a Polish accent which betrayed only the slightest modulation.

“Ugh, yes, whatever. Whitney Houston. Bring me some pline!”

“Pline, my mistress?” replied Tina in a timid, strained tone.

“Plastic wine, girl!”

“Yes, of course, mistress.” Tina trotted like a deer over to a buffet table stationed on the wall at one end of the room, poured a glass of strangely incandescent liquor from a carafe, and brought it back to Plastica on a small silver tray. “My apologies, mistress, for failing to fulfil your wishes immediately and without question. It will never happen again.” Plastica gave her a condescending flick of the lashes, and Tina spasmed slightly as if under some sudden, strange spell. The witch clasped the chalice in her purple claws, took a gulp of pline, and resumed her monologue, talking into the air.

“Gather round, my children. Behold the grandeur of my work. Every ancient statue, every priceless painting betrays, through my likeness, my gift to the world–Myself!” She gave Tina a dark side-glance, then Julie Gentron - Plastica Black Lamelooked back into the air. “It grows. It grows from all corners of the globe. From the sin-filled pleasure-domes of Bangkok to the salacious man-cauldrons of Hell’s Kitchen, my plastic empire grows and thrives like a Morning Glory smothering a rotting English fence. But it all begins here, in the storehouse of Western art, the newly christened Plouvre!” She said these words in a crescendo of passion and intensity, widening her green eyes and raising her chalice in the air. She slacked her chain, placed the chalice back on the tray (which was still being held by Tina), and took a seat on the back of Dr Electro-hag, who winced under her weight.

“I’m hungry!” she barked. The other female plasticon minced robot-like in six-inch heels to the buffet table and revealed a sushi platter. She took the platter in her hands with the skill of a veteran waitress and, with a pair of chopsticks, placed several sushi pieces on to Oswald’s back, which happened to be wrapped in a tube-like sheath of cellophane especially for the occasion. She then retrieved a fresh pair of chopsticks from the buffet table drawer and handed them to her mistress, who proceeded daintily to pluck the delicacies off her man-table and stuff them–a little bit awkwardly, to her chagrin–inside her thick, plump, red lips, chewing down like a cow on its cud. This unfortunate adventure in Eastern cuisine was met by an uncomfortable quietude among the room’s inhabitants, who dared not watch their mistress chow down, but kept their eyes straight forward.

“Good gracious, queen, you look like you’re ready to back up hard against some German leather-daddy,” Plastica squeaked at Oswald, whose spine was curved inward like that of a hungry virgin twink under the voluminous stash of Julie Gentron - Plastica Marylin Monroe Black LameOriental delicacies.

“I am, if it will put me out of my misery, you odious milf,” replied Oswald, trying doggedly to balance the incense burner on his head.

“Well, obviously I’ll have to assimilate you soon, Sergeant Sodomite, but right now I am quite content with watching your fitful outbursts and the pathetic, lame insults they produce.” With this riposte, she plucked a piece of sannakji, still squirming, off the nape of his back, dipped it in a dish of soy sauce, and shoved it in her voluptuous maw.

“We do have a deal, my mistress,” croaked Dr Electro-hag with a sneer. “You would give me half of Earth as my suzerainty.”

“You will have a quarter of Earth as your suzerainty, you decrepit queen. Be thankful and bow at my feet for my generosity. Oh, wait. You’re already bowing. Ha! How convenient.” At this, Plastica took another swig of pline, applied a fresh layer of yellow-green eyeshadow, and refreshed her lips with a thick crimson gloss.

“Paris may be the capital of high art and fashion, my darlings, but I have my sights set on a less polished gem–the cutural future of Europe–Berlin!” She gestured in circular motions with her chalice and chopsticks. “You’ll notice, my beauties, the old Prussian stronghold has re-invented itself as a centre of artistic creativity, but without entirely shedding the vestiges of its Cold War past, leaving it slightly rough  round the edges, like a cut-rate 1980s gay hooker who still listens to Kraftwerk on cassette tape. It is in this thriving metropolis we shall establish our new base. And from there, Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Riga, Helsinki, Minsk, St. Petersburg, Moscow, the whole of northern Europe!” She rose from Dr Electro-hag’s back and unleashed a witchy cackle, raising her hands into the air and wielding her chopsticks like a deadly weapon, a piece of whitefin tuna tumbling to the ground between her six-inch Jimmy Choo heels.

Find out whether Plastica succeeds in her diabolical scheme in the next episode of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!





Julie Gentron and the Lady League (Vol. 1, Ep. 8): Hot Tub Secrets

28 10 2012

In the last episode of Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Lady Fairfax forced her girls to undergo a brutal martial arts training session as punishment for failing to capture Plastica. Afterward, she promised to reveal the latest MI6 intelligence on their foe. Here are those secrets.

Lady Fairfax turned round and gestured toward the Lady League hot tub, which opened up in the floor below. “Dive in, ladies!” The ladies acquiesced, changing into swimsuits and submerging themselves in the giant, hot bubbles, slapping water at each other and giggling like girls. A weird gynoid entered with a mechanical bleeping sound, but the ladies were delighted with the sight of the awkwardly feminine robot. Suddenly, a giant telescreen lighted up on the wall above the bubble bath.

“Ladies, it is my duty to apprise you of the latest intelligence on our elusive foe, Plastica,” said Lady Fairfax as a servant replenished her drink. The ladies perked up. “The witchy woman who absconded with our beloved community college dropout and professional fashion bitch-hound, Oswald, was born a very normal girl in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. Her real name is Beryl Ann Rivers, the daughter and only child of an American senator and a British horse breeder and equestrian.”

“Are you feeling comfortable yet, Julie?” said the gynoid as she massaged Julie’s shoulders.

“Yes, P.A.M.,” said Julie. “Thank you. Oh, that feels good. Wait, P.A.M?!” she said, whipping her head round at the mysterious masseuse.

“Yes, Julie. It is I, your loyal onboard computer,” said the gynoid as she continued to massage the Lady League captain’s tense muscles.

“How did you manage to take humanoid form?”

“It was simple,” cooed P.A.M. softly. “I was given my new form by gifted graduate students at the A.I. department of London University, in conjunction with a special research unit of the Secret Intelligence Service on artificial intelligence.”

“Amazing,” said Julie. She relaxed and let the gynoid grind away, pleasantly pleased at the surprise. The other ladies seemed too transfixed by the bubbles and the telescreen to notice the exchange.

“Beryl spent her childhood between her mother’s upper-class Boston townhouse,” continued Fairfax, clicking buttons on the telescreen console, “and her father’s country estate in Wiltshire. As a young girl, she had a private tutor and thus engaged in little contact with others her age; at around age 14, yearning for a social life, she persuaded her parents to enter her into public high-school—but even this time was spent largely between Boston and London, splintering the weak bonds she had managed to forge with her peers and creating an ideal environment for bullying. She was tormented by her classmates; this only nurtured her rage.

“Given her family’s wealth and her own genius, she entered Oxford University and sailed through her studies.” The telescreen showed slides of an increasingly unnatural-looking, but strangely beautiful Plastica. “With amazing celerity, she earned a dual-major in business and biology, and, after taking a gap year to explore the Continent and the Far East, went on to earn a master’s in bioengineering at Harvard. She then took another hiatus to explore the beauty culture and aesthetic traditions of the Vega star system, where she learned a great deal about colour and branding. She returned to Earth and earned her PhD in genetics and dermatology at L’école de la Peau—The School of Skin—in Paris. During this time she worked as a fashion model, but once she had finished her academic career she established her own plastic surgery firm and soon became its chief executive officer. The business flourished and emerged as the pre-eminent plastic surgery firm on Earth.

“Although she looks about forty, her true age remains unknown. The scraps of her early history we have gathered place her birth some time in the early twentieth century. She could be the oldest living human–if you can call her human. We don’t exactly know.”

“Does that feel good, Julie?” asked P.A.M. in her eerie monotone.

“Why, yes, P.A.M. Very good. A little lower, if you don’t mind.” The gynoid proceeded to massage Julie’s back.

“Our bloodthirsty Beryl wasn’t satisfied,” continued Fairfax, regarding the display between gynoid and cyborg with a slight smile. “She started recruiting patients, coercing them into plastic surgery operations and forging their contracts. She expanded her plastic surgery firm—or should I say farm—to the outer reaches of the solar system and then to other star systems, transforming into her likeness the vicious water-snake queen of Intrepida Q-43b and the vampire space-wolves of the Pleiadian star cluster. Her space-travel technology is as great as ours, I’m afraid, and it is all funded by her massive fortune. She can reach the most distant corners of the galaxy in mere minutes.”

“This is awful!” cried Donna. “Why, I ought to implant a telekinetic bubble inside her rectum and cause it to expand until she explodes!”

“Good luck mastering that technique, Donna. Meanwhile, I’ll be mopping the floor of her space-ship with her plastic booty–using my bare hands,” said Rosalind.

“And I will turn her ship against her by commandeering its central computer!” added Julie, sitting erect within the bubbling waters. “I will lead my ladies into the melee with the strong and firm fist of a true, alien-bred technopath!” Here the other ladies noticed the strange gynoid.

“Hey! Keep your hands off her!” whined Donna in the shrill, reedy voice of a Los Angeles mall rat as she saw P.A.M. working Julie. “You just want her for yourself!” With this remonstration, she proceeded to massage Julie’s worn feet with a ferocious jealousy. Initially hesitant, the cyborg acceeded, sliding her body back into the warm waters, and Donna performed an exquisite ritual upon her toes.

“This is bullshit. I am going to plow some pussy,” roared Rosalind. She submerged her gorgeous, glistening Michelle Obama physique beneath a rumble of bubbling waves and made her way between Julie’s thighs. Julie tittered, “Hehe! That tickles, Rosalind!” and stroked Rosalind’s wet head with a strange desire to wrap her thighs around her face like the interior of a warm, wet clam. P.A.M., apparently curious, resumed her massage of Julie’s back, this time in its lower region.

“That’s all very well, ladies,” continued Fairfax, peering down peremptorily at the girls with her imperturbable Bea Arthur face, “but Plastica does not work alone—she has a helper.” On the telescreen appeared a ghastly, wizen face pitted with two baleful, hollow eyes, a hideous nest of wires serving as hair. The skin was a sickly grey-purple. “This creature is known only as Dr. Electro-hag. He is a shadowy figure–his past is a blur. We know he hangs on Beryl’s bosoms like a baby sucking at the teats of Satan, but he possesses genius bioengineering skills. A few scraps of evidence suggest he played a major role in Plastica’s rise to success, but there was a fall-out between the two and somehow she got the upper-hand, assimilating him into her army. The details are foggy, and we’re not yet sure where the hag’s loyalty truly lies, but we think he might prove a formidable ally, if we can offer him amnesty on certain binding conditions.”

“Every mistreated monster deserves a chance at redemption!” cried Julie, withdrawing her thighs from Rosalind’s lips and rising up out of the bath, her trim, toned body glistening. P.A.M. withdrew a few steps, quiet and solemn. “I will not let such an unfortunate creature slip through our compassionate, forgiving fingers to become another trophy on the mantelpiece of that inhuman witch. Why, if only we could save her too. But we can’t, it seems.” After towelling herself off, she stationed herself at the telescreen console and clacked away at the buttons. “Look! She hasn’t gone far. We have been able to capture traces of the monster’s footsteps. Our satellite imaging technology, as well as our spies and ground-based telescopes, suggest Plastica is headed in the direction of the Louvre in Paris. She is targeting Western civilisation at its very core, and we are the only ladies who can stop her!”

“And we have to save Oswald!” cried Donna giddily. “He’s redeemed himself–he hardly deserves the fate which stands before him.”

“Since when did you sympathise with that ice-cold, cutthroat fashion-dick, Donna?” asked Rosalind, stepping out of the tub and drying off her muscular shoulders with a terry-cloth towel.

“Since he said that fashion should fit the woman, and not the other way around!” replied Donna, raising her head proudly and rising out of the tub. “He thinks fashion is a tool for self-expression, not a mould to be shoe-horned into. You would do well to learn more about him, you grumpy old muscle-dyke!”

“Ladies! Stop your bickering,” said Julie, her rich, brown eyes growing large with domination. “We have a greater goal in mind—the salvation of humanity—and I rely on you to help me achieve it! Once more–cease your petty squabbling and lend me your loyal assistance in this daunting task. London, Britain, and Earth need you! Now! You know what to do.” The ladies obediently rose up out of their comfortable water-kingdom and placed their feet on the firm, cold surface of MI6 ground.

“Girls,” cried Fairfax, tapping the remnant of her broken cane against her wheelchair to get the women’s attention, “Heed your leader’s words. We have one thing left to do, and my gin and tonic needs topping off anyway, so have with it!”

“Lady League, unite!” cried Julie. The ladies joined fists and shot a bright, white-green column of light through the roof of the MI6 headquarters into the night sky above Lambeth. London was aglow, its great landmarks glittering, and below, patrons of sex-bars and gay bathhouses alike looked up in awe at the brilliant spectacle, dropping their half-opened condom packages and plastic cups of warm beer. Fairfax surreptitiously pulled the plug on the gynoid, who went limp.

Find out what happens at the most famous museum in the world in the next episode of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!





Julie Gentron and the Lady League (Vol. 1, Ep. 7): Karate Chop!

19 10 2012

In the last episode of Julie Gentron and the Lady League, the ladies were blown away by the exhaust fumes from Plastica’s subterranean Parisian spaceship. After the plastic witch escaped into space with a horde of unlucky fashionistas, including their charge Simpson Oswald, the ladies were forced to return to London empty-handed. Furious at their failure, Lady Fairfax, the ladies’ boss and Chief of the MI6, forced her girls to undergo a rigorous martial arts training session.

Swerving round nimbly in her wicker wheelchair, Fairfax whipped the ladies into shape like a sadistic lesbian prison warden, a cane in one hand and a gin-and-tonic in the other: “Right, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and left, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and right, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and—”

“–Ugh, Lady Fairfax, I can’t keep up,” groaned Donna flailing in exhaustion and panting like a pregnant cougar. “My knees are sore and my pants are stuck in my crotch!”

“It’s your awkward bosoms getting in the way, girl, not your knees,” snapped Fairfax in her prim British accent.

“Wh–what?? I can’t believe you actually said that!”

“Silence, you shrieking sow! For every moment you spend protesting”–Fairfax wheeled her way behind Donna–“the fiend strikes at your heel!” She crouched like a viper, tripped Donna to the ground under her cane, and resumed her stiff position in the wheelchair. “You may be able to move objects with your mind, Donna, but you had better learn to concentrate, lest an old, wheelchair-bound coot like me should stab you in the back from behind. If you want to save this daft fashion critic from the demon’s clutches, you must think fast! Our time is limited!” She raised her cane perpendicular to the ground and gave a toffy-nosed grimace. Rosalind suddenly grabbed her from behind in an effort to retrieve the cane, but Fairfax deftly smacked her backwards in the face with it, swivelled her chair round, and grabbed her opponent’s thighs in her arms, dragging her to the ground. Rosalind had to use above-average force to extricate herself from Fairfax’s unusually strong grip.

“That wasn’t fair!” cried the proud Zaghawa tribeswoman.

“What do you mean it wasn’t fair, you unwieldy oaf?” countered Fairfax. “You possess super-human strength, Rosalind; hence, I rely on skill. Why, I could barely even do what I did!” Rosalind nodded apologetically, and Fairfax placed her gin-and-tonic gracefully on a nearby table with a gruff harrumph. “I look ahead, anticipate your next move, and prepare to strike”–Rosalind threw a punch at her, but the feisty sexagenarian blocked it with her newly free fist, clipping Rosalind on the side of the cheek with the other, cane in hand–“and thus emerge the victor! And next time, Rosalind, remember that MI6 protocol strictly forbids the use of mutant powers against a superior officer. Learn to govern your reflexes, you ill-bred country-woman. Carry on, ladies!”

Rosalind and Donna ganged up on the aging martial artist, but in a sudden swirl she knocked both to the ground with her cane and a fist. Julie intervened, pressing forth her large trunk and flexing her sinewy muscles. A tango ensued between the two, and Julie showed unusually precise movements in response to the cane-thrusts of the crippled but nimble woman. Fairfax darted about like a cat in a wheelchair for disabled pets, but Julie made few advances, finally surrendering in exhaustion.

“You have beaten me,” said Fairfax.

“What do you mean, Lady? I have not,” replied Julie, pacing about like an African lioness.

“My loss was inevitable. You have surrendered too soon; you have far too much integrity to give up so easily. You are being lazy because you are fighting an old coot in a wicker wheelchair. You must always stick it out till the end,”–she made a jabbing motion with her cane–“and that end is the triumph of the British people!” She gave her cane a stomp. “We shall proceed with a rematch.” She retrieved her gin-and-tonic, took a long, delicate sip, and set it back down on the table, noticing Julie’s discomfiture. “You are far too serious, my dear. Lighten up.”

“H—How can I keep going unless I use my powers?” asked Julie. She swiped at Fairfax, who dodged the blow and parried it with the tip of her fabled cane.

“Charisma, uniqueness, nerve, talent–and lady essence!” replied the crone. “A hard-hewn tool no muscle-bound man can out-manoeuvre. All one needs to topple a locomotive is a misaligned railway track—a single trip, a well-timed block, a clip to the jaw. Do not succumb to fear or distraction, girl. Focus on your goal.” She took another sip from her drink, returned it to the table, and swayed her cane at the ladies. “Lady essence consists of real-life epigenetic phenomena combined in a virulent concoction with supernova gamma ray bursts and high-galactic ectoplasm!”

“Huh?” said Donna in her annoying California accent. Her painfully contorted face belied her brainy potential. “Madam Fairfax, if genes are the script for human behaviour, how can anybody control what they do?”

“They control what they do because they realize they can,” said Fairfax, simply. There was an awkward pause as the ladies gave each other funny looks. “Genes are subsidiary to consciousness and environment. Volition is an inherent part of the lady essence, passed down to us by the cosmic rays of the universe and the many unseen lady-dimensions beyond. All that is required of you is to stop screaming like banshees in heat and focus on the task at hand. That is why you spit and sputter like a Model T Ford, Donna! You abandon yourself to destiny. And yet, with enough focus, you can do such mighty things. I almost fear you.”

Madam Fairfax,” interjected Julie, “respectfully, your observations sound to me like junk science.”

“What, you untrained vessel of womanhood? Are volition and self-awareness ‘unscientific’ to you? You talk like a maladaptive cretin. Never would allow some Stone Age brute to throttle me to the ground and drag me screaming back to his cave, forcing me to pop out a few more babes with random scraps of leftover wooly mammoth meat flung my way as modest incentive!” She raised her cane in the air with a queenly conviction. “Never would I sanction the violation of the yonic temple to satisfy the lusts of monsters who wage war over mates and resources only to mock their female prize with the scant remnants of their winnings. I take my life in my own hands! I am a lady of the future!” Once more the matron gave her cane a thund’rous rap, and this time it went home. In sudden silence, she delicately laid the unassuming weapon across her lap and clasped her hands there like a venerable grandmother. The ladies, stunned, tried to collect themselves.

“You are right, Madam Fairfax,” said Julie, bravely breaking the silence. “How remiss I am to forget my own passion for your cause. I myself gave a speech not so long ago enumerating the many necessities of female empowerment, and how we musn’t bow to biological determinism. All I know is that something inside me–this ‘lady essence,’ as you call it–drives me forth in an endless quest to secure justice for all humankind. Why, something–something makes me want to punch that plastic bitch square in the jaw, grab her by the wig, and toss her unnaturally pretty corpse into the Old Bailey–if only to defend the women and men of Britain, of Earth, and of the galaxy!”

“It is there your sentiment should lie, my dear,” said Fairfax. “Hopefully when it comes to that you’ll have prised poor Oswald from the witch’s clutches unbruised. The daft old queen is so delicate. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it; for now, my worries are soothed. With your fierce conviction, Julie, you have only demonstrated my weird hypothesis, which is that you have control over your destiny. I can tell that in your heart resides true nobility.”

“That doesn’t mean I’m not going to give up common sense, Madam! It’s the only way I can gauge a threat in my environment. Why, if I didn’t have my wits to rely on—” Julie suddenly grabbed the tip of Fairfax’s cane, spun the wheelchair round, and pulled the cane securely against her boss’s neck with both hands. Almost as soon as it happened, she mercifully released Fairfax, who spun back round, regained her composure, and gave a stunned, weird look of awe and delight. The old woman deployed a swift cane-strike at Julie’s kidney, but the technopath grabbed the weapon in her palms and broke it in two over her knee, throwing the pieces to the ground. Bereft of her cane, and with a maniacal look in her eyes, the crippled woman siezed her wheels, swirled round in a circle to gain momentum, and charged at Julie with wheels and legs in the air. Julie leapt up, catapulted herself over the wheelchair foot-holds, and landed crotch-first on Fairfax’s face, squeezing her thighs together. She sat there snugly until her mentor mumbled something along the lines of surrender, and she peeled her buttocks away to reveal a happy face.

“Spectacular!” boomed Lady Fairfax, repositioning her wheelchair with her strong arms and whipping blood from her nose. “You have passed the test! You have mastered the use of a most formidable weapon—the lady strike—a powerful repository of female ingenuity. But you had better know not only when to strike, but whom! Take that to heart. Now let us break and relax. I have some dark secrets about Plastica to tell you girls.”

Find out what those little dark secrets are in the next episode of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!